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OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
19 September – 30 September 2005, Warsaw

Working Session 14: National Minorities

September 28, 2005

Presentation by Macedonian Human Rights Movement International


Distinguished Moderator and Representatives:

Thank you for the opportunity to present to you the current situation of the Macedonian minority in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. Greece and Bulgaria vigorously deny the existence of the Macedonian minority on their territory and attempt to suppress any voices that advocate human rights. Albania only recognizes the existence of the Macedonian minority in a small area of the country. Following are several examples of the restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, and freedom of association and the right of peaceful assembly imposed on the Macedonian minority.

Freedom of Expression and the Media

On August 14, 2005, a Greek daily newspaper censored an article by writer Thanasis Triaridis entitled "A short note on a banned language", which summarised the history and the reasons for the prohibition on speaking Macedonian in Greece, as well as Greece's refusal to recognise national minorities. The author concluded that it was time to lift the ban and teach the language with its songs and its literature at the schools in the areas where the language is spoken.

On June 2, 2005, Greek authorities refused to issue accreditation to three Macedonian journalists working for the television station A1 (based in the Macedonian capital of Skopje) who wanted to travel to northern Greece to meet with members of the region's Macedonian minority.

On June 4, 2004, police entered the premises of the private radio station Makedonikos Ichos (Macedonian Sound) in Naoussa/Negush, ceased the transmitting and arrested the owner, Aris Vottaris. The official explanation was that this radio station has no licence for local or regional transmission. Vottaris was released after a few hours, but there were charges pressed against him because of illegal transmission and lack of documents. Vottaris is a Macedonian and was often transmitting traditional songs and dances in Macedonian language, as well as using Macedonian language on air.

Freedom of Association and the Right of Peaceful Assembly

On December 1, 2004, two ethnic Macedonian citizens of Albania, Jani Nesto (40) and Sotir Nestor (40) from the village of Pustec, were heavily wounded while coming under gunfire by an armed Albanian gang, who proceeded to shoot at them and their vehicles with Kalashnikov assault rifles while the two were making their way home from Korca.

According to Edmond Temelko, the president of the “Prespa Society” – the organization which protects the rights of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Albania – this has been the third such incident in the last year.

“We believe that these violent armed attacks are based purely upon political motives, aimed at scaring the Macedonians of Mala Prespa. We contacted the police in Korca and the Helsinki Committee in Albania because of this gross violation of human rights and freedoms of the Macedonians of Albania and we expect the relevant institutions to undertake the necessary steps to protect the freedoms of mobility and property and the lives of the Macedonians of Albania.”

Macedonians in Bulgaria continuously face discrimination and intimidation when asserting their ethnic Macedonian identity. On July 31, 2005 in Betalovoto, Bulgaria, several Macedonian organizations gathered for an annual Macedonian commemoration but were confronted by armed Bulgarian nationalists. Despite a history of violence by Bulgarian ultra-nationalists against ethnic Macedonians the Bulgarian government chose not to provide security for the event.

MHRMI calls on the international community, and specifically the European Union, to apply pressure on Bulgaria to immediately recognize its large Macedonian minority and grant it the human rights that it is guaranteed by all international human rights conventions. Moreover, MHRMI calls on the European Union to make Bulgaria's accession to the European Union explicitly conditional on its recognition of its Macedonian minority.

The European Court of Human Rights convicted Greece for a violation of freedom of association in the case of Sideropoulos and others vs. Greece in 1998 for failing to register the Home of Macedonian Culture. Despite repeated attempts since then, the Home of Macedonian Culture (HMC) has encountered numerous obstacles in trying to register the association. On January 20, 2005, the European Free Alliance protested to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg about ongoing human rights abuses in Greece. Bernat Joan, the Catalan Euro-MP and Vice President of the European Free Alliance stated:

"I was very concerned to hear this news of ongoing intolerance by Greek authorities. It seems to me a flagrant abuse of basic human rights, not to mention treaty commitments. Greece has fallen foul of the European Court of Human Rights in the past yet this seems to have had little impact on the attitude of the Greek authorities.

They must recognise the right to peaceful and free association without interference or oppression. It is ironic that at a time when the EU is asking countries who want to join to implement the so-called 'Copenhagen criteria' which includes the protection of minorities, some existing EU members behave in such a way."

EFA-Rainbow, the political party of the Macedonian minority in Greece, was forced to cancel its congress twice in 2003 because of threats received from Greek Neo-Nazi organizations. EFA-Rainbow is a legal political party in Greece and did not receive any guarantees of security by Greek police, nor did the Greek government intervene despite repeated appeals by various international organizations. No Greek media or politicians denounced the threats by the Neo-Nazi organizations. Moreover, several media outlets actually praised the Neo-Nazi threats!

Because of mounting pressure against Greece, EFA-Rainbow was finally able to hold its congress on May 30, 2004. However, Greece has become a breeding ground for Neo-Nazism because of its tolerance, and even promotion, of racism and discrimination against minority groups. This culminated in a gathering of various European Neo-Nazi groups in Greece on September 16-18, 2005.

Greece continues to blacklist ethnic Macedonian human rights activists and political refugees. The most recent example is Gjorgi Plukovski, a Canadian citizen of Macedonian descent, born in Harala, Kastoria, Greece (Pozdivishta, Kostur in Macedonian) who was denied entry into Greece when attempting to enter from the Republic of Macedonia on August 4, 2005, and given a document by border officials stating that he “is considered to be a threat to public order, internal security, public health or the international relations of one or more of the Member States of the European Union”.

Mr. Plukovski was rejected at the Greek border despite the fact that he had entered Greece by way of Italy a month earlier, on July 6, 2005 and remained in Greece until July 24, 2005. If Mr. Plukovski were truly a “threat to internal security”, Greece would share its blacklist with other Schengen Treaty member states to ensure that he is unable to enter any such states. However, Greece refuses to admit that its blacklist consists merely of ethnic Macedonians who publicly call for Greece to recognize its significant ethnic Macedonian minority and respect their human rights.

Macedonian Human Rights Movement International calls on the international community to demand that Greece end its racist and xenophobic policy of discriminating against individuals of Macedonian ethnicity. MHRMI also calls on Greece to address immediately the issue of the thousands of Macedonian refugees from the Greek Civil War who were specifically excluded from the general amnesty of 1982 because they were not “Greek by genus”. MHRMI specifically asks that the EU end its hypocrisy in demanding that new member states respect human rights standards while ignoring human rights violations within the EU.

Ireneusz Slupkowski
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Address: 157 Adelaide St. West, Suite 434, Toronto, Canada M5H 4E7
Tel: 416-850-7125 Fax: 416-850-7127
E-mail: info@mhrmi.org Website: www.mhrmi.org

     
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